Monday, January 16, 2017

Presentation to the NSUARB - January 10 2017

Presentation to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board- January 10 2017

Regarding proposal by Maritime Billiards for a Liquor License at the corner of Raymoor Drive and Main Street

I do appreciate the opportunity to be here this evening to speak with respect to the proposal for a liquor license with Maritime Billiards. I come on behalf of many of the approximately 83 neighbouring residents who attended a public meeting on September 9th hosted by Councillor Tony Mancini and myself.  A meeting held at the request of the area residents, as well as other residents who have since contacted me about this.   Councillor Mancini is at another public hearing tonight otherwise we would have heard from him tonight as well.  I also know that many residents were unable to speak tonight because, by no fault of the Boards, they were unaware of the December 8th deadline to register and just not familiar with the process, just as many were completely unaware there was an opportunity to comment to Alcohol and Gaming,
which is why you see so many of the comments came in afterwards because the only notice received was on the building and on Twitter.  In fact even my office didn’t receive that notice and neither was it seen.

But on to the proposal.  I have heard from many of these residents – who are in fact the closest neighbours to the site – concerning their feelings about the proposal. And more recently I have heard from the broader community about the proposal and the feedback we have received about a liquor license at this location has been reasonably uniform, and in fact those in support have been the exception rather than the rule.   And especially the closer you get to the site.

That is there is no way to issue a liquor license at this site without impacting the quiet enjoyment of the area. Now while previous uses, as you heard this morning, such as the church and karate facility on this site have had the rare complaint regarding street parking, those have been limited to Sunday mornings or a few hours at a time on rare occasions of special events at the facility, not on an ongoing basis, and in fact the hours of both of the previous facilities of that site were not every day. There is no way to have a licensed establishment such as proposed on this site without significant impacts to the community, not only in terms of parking on a daily basis which has been an issue, but probably less of a concern for the board, but more importantly exterior patron and traffic noise which is inevitable. I would ask the board to keep in mind that the immediate next door and across the street neighbours are all single family dwellings. There are no operating businesses in close proximity.

Now, I have lived in the area of this proposal for most of my 42 years. I have represented this area on a political level for 13 years. And over the last 13 years the Main Street Business Improvement District is of particular interest because we have worked very hard with the community and area businesses to reinvigorate the opportunities, and determine where different uses are appropriate. This site was, and is not intended for licensed facilities, nor is that contemplated in the planning. The planning contemplates community recreation or institutional, intermittent uses such as the small church which was once on this site. It was envisioned this site would be rolled into the future of the former Ford dealership site nearby. Now its current zoning of C2 exists solely for the purpose to accommodate previous recreation use as it was the only zoning option that was available at that time. But it had been planned, and there were already public meetings held, before this proposal came forward to look at the future use of this site in conjunction with the Ford dealership, and change the zoning to one of the new ones available.

As the board is likely aware, Main Street area does provide space appropriate for licensed establishments, and you heard about some of those this morning. There are bars and other licensed facilities within the business portion providing community licensed establishments and it is an area that this proposal would be welcome. That area purposefully separates these uses from low density residential and community recreation uses to prevent conflicts which have had the benefit of preventing complaints of quiet enjoyment. So the bars we have not far from this location are separate from residency and therefore do not receive complaints.

If the board approves a liquor license in this location it would undermine the hard work of the community over the past 10 years in trying to minimize conflict. It will also impact considerations for the former Ford dealership site behind this site. This site is under active consideration for residential, single-family residential, or community outdoor recreation use targeted at school age children. It is interesting that, I heard this morning, the proponent talked about a bus terminal being discussed at this site. In fact, the bus terminal is currently designated for the Main Street business area close to the existing bars, where the buses currently converge near the Sobey’s store quite some distance away, and that was done in part to move noise and traffic concerns away from the very spot of this proposal. At most what has been discussed for buses at this site is a bus stop to service the recreation facilities, schools, and possibly service the college.

Now, the board is aware through its other hearings that the jurisdiction on municipal zoning is a broad brush. Had the applicant inquired with the Main Street Business Association, with any of the three elected officials in the area, he would have found out more detailed intentions and planning for this site, and probably would have received quite a bit of assistance in trying to secure a spot within the business area where there is space available for lease.

Now I understand that the role of the board is to determine whether the issuance of a liquor license is appropriate in the context of the existing neighbourhood and the likelihood of conflict. The board has heard from past members of the proponent’s private billiards club, and I have no doubt that there were no problems within those clubs. I would ask the board to remember the predecessor of this business was a private club, not a public club, located in an industrial park. What is proposed here is an open licensed facility located on a street which is solely residential and has no other commercial uses for some distance.

At the September 9th meeting we invited Mr. White the opportunity to explain his proposal and allay concerns of the neighbours, and honestly we appreciate that he came. We only held the meeting because he agreed to come and talk to residents and see if we could work this out. Quite the opposite, his presentation heightened the concerns of neighbouring residents and he ended up flagging other issues, and my own concerns are more heightened after hearing the testimony this morning.

The board should be aware that at the September meeting Mr. White assured residents there would never be more than a handful of cars associated with the business. This morning we heard he could see a maximum of 25. He assured residents the hours would be short, and the business closed before midnight in most cases. Yet today we see he is seeking hours that go beyond that. If the proponent is unable to keep commitments he made just a couple of months ago to residents, I think we are already setting things up for conflict if this license is approved.

Very briefly before I wrap up I would like to address the issue of VLTs. As the former Minister responsible for VLTs and Part 1 of the Gaming Control Act, it is my opinion that this site is not eligible for VLTs by transfer or any other means under current guidelines. It is a new business, and new type of operation compared to the previous business, it is a substantially different location, and too much time has passed since the closure of the previous business. However, the government has not announced their decision and have said they are waiting until the decision of this board to make a decision on the VLTs, and they have the authority to go beyond the guidelines. They have chosen to wait because without a liquor license the proponent is not eligible for VLTs. The liquor license factors into whether or not there with be VLTs on this site. So, given that the decision of the board has even more ramifications, it will set up a separate conflict over VLTs, which were unanimously opposed to for this site at the meeting.

I would like to wrap up with a couple of comments about what should happen in the unlikely event that the board finds it must approve the liquor license, because I understand that this is something that could happen. I do not believe the board should approve a liquor license at this location. However, what the proponent has come to the board today with is far more aggressive and much more deeply troubling than what he committed to neighbours at the September meeting. I know residents would be shocked to hear some of what was proposed this morning. I would ask then that if you must approve the license, you place conditions on it to enforce the commitments he made at that meeting.

These included prohibitions on live music, which I understand he is not proposing anyway. Requirements that the windows remain closed at all times. Requirements that the sound from inside will not be such that it cannot be heard outside, and a limitation on hours which ensure the building is vacated by staff and clients on all days before midnight. As well as any other restrictions within the board’s authority to ensure the quiet enjoyment of residents and the safety of minors in the area, including possible limits on the number of people permitted in this facility. The proponent has said he doesn’t ever perceive there being any more than forty people, then there is no reason there can be a limitation of that sort put on the facility. Finally, I would ask the board that any approved license not be allowed to be transferred if this business is sold in the future. Thank-you.